Insiders: 47 Percent Comment Damaging
in the latest National Journal Political Insiders Poll, Insiders of both parties mostly agreed that Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comment had damaged his candidacy, although they differed on just how damaging it was.
Nearly 80 percent of Democratic Insiders said the secretly-taped remarks were "very damaging"; none deemed it "not damaging." Meanwhile, only about 2 out of 10 GOP Insiders classified the incident as "very damaging" while the vast majority said it was "damaging." About 14 percent said it was "not damaging" at all.
Many Insiders said Romney's remarks on the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income tax were especially harmful because they reinforced what President Obama's campaign has been saying about him and the Republican Party all along -- that they are the party of out-of-touch millionaires who don't understand the middle class.
"He gave voice to the worst caricatures some have of Republicans: uncaring, selfish, and arrogant," one GOP Insider said.
How much has Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comment hurt his candidacy?
"How convenient when a candidate says something that completely and totally reinforces everything his opponent has been saying about him. Kind of like, 'I was for it before I was against it,'" another Democrat agreed, referencing 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry's verbal slip that confirmed people's notion of him as a flip-flopper.
"Someone called it third-party validation of what Romney's critics say about him, but it was far worse. It was first party-personal validation," a third Democrat chimed in. "Gotta love those smartphones."
Several others noted that the 47 percent Romney specifically pinpointed as government freeloaders are in many cases Republicans and Romney supporters.
"Half of the 47 percent are/were Romney supporters. He doesn't understand the cultural makeup of today's partisan coalitions," a GOP Insider said.
Another added: "Never tell the customers you don't want their business."
Many, however, said the comment itself was not as damaging as the fact that it took away valuable time from the issues Romney wishes to focus on.
"Damaging, not because it cost him votes, but because he was unable to get his own message out for more than a week. It helped the Obama campaign skate on the Libya issue and 'bump in the road,'" one Republican said. A Democrat agreed: "It's not so much that the comments were damaging, it's that he's running out the clock when he's behind. There were around 50 days until the election, and this wasted about a week. He keeps stepping on his message of the bad economy."
Other Republicans panned what they termed the Romney camp's lackluster response.
"It demonstrates poor political instincts, which is shocking in a candidate at this level. There were many ways to make his point without damage. The real problem is his tone-deafness to political discourse. Not a good sign," one said.
Still, not everyone thought that it was the end of the world.
"Most of the people he was offending thought he was talking about somebody else," a Democrat observed.